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Sean_A

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PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills New
« on: October 16, 2009, 08:56:33 PM »
I had the good fortune to make my way up to Cheshire today and play Prestbury.  I must admit to knowing very little of the course other than Colt is the architect of record and that Morrison may have helped with the design at some stage.  The course sits on a very hilly property not far south of Manchester near Macclesfield in a well heeled area.  In truth, the course is likely a bit too mountainous for ideal golf, but Colt dealt with the severity of the terrain admirably.  The card tells us the total yardage from the daily tees is not much shy of 6200, but as is so often the case with Colt's work the course can play longer.  I was surprised to read the SSS is one shot less than the par of 71 because the course seemed to play fairly difficult despite not having many onerous requirements. Finally, other than the hills, my over-riding impression of Prestbury is that of an American course due in part to its fine presentation that often eludes even some of the finer courses in the UK.  On to the photos.

We get a sense of scorecard length not meaning much on the first hole, a short par 5 of 459 yards, but one which takes two very good swipes to reach the green.  I must admit to having a sinking feeling when I spied the Oakland Hills syndrome of bunker left and bunker right. Two decent shots leaves a wedge in the hand, but judging the depth of the green is difficult.


#2 takes the golfer down hill between more equi-distant bunkers right and left.  Fortunately, the fairway bunkering improves as we move through the round.  The course says hello on the third.  If one is long enough the drive is blind with a landing zone slipping sharply away from the crest of a hill. Below is the approach from right of the fairway to a magnificent green site tagged to a rapidly rising hill.


A mid-length one-shotter; #4. 


The fifth is a short par 4 that is reachable in theory, but I am sure the photo explains why it isn't in reality.  I reckon its better to lay back off the tee leaving the length of the green available for the approach. 


Other than the orientation of the approach, the 5th is distinguished from the 3rd by two bunkers on the plateau.  From the 6th teeit is apparent why driving pin high isn't clever.  Here is a look from the front of the 6th tee.  I am told by Mark R that Paul Turner has photos of this hole with sand completely surrounding the green!


I don't quite know how Colt managed it, but the second par 5, #6, is another that should be reachable on the card, but it plays longer than its listed 496 yards. The second climbs the hill and crosses the entrance road.  However, it is the turning left of the hole which makes it difficult to get up in two. 

The hilly nature of the course hides the fact that Prestbury is compact.  The seventh is another good short hole without being special. The 6th green is in the immediate foreground. 


Below is a closer look at the green and its hidden surprise.


The 8th is a very short two-shotter which bends hard left and would be drivable for the flat bellies except for the trees guarding the left corner (and I suspect the  7th tee).  This is a curious hole because one must challenge the unseen hazard through the fairway to gain the best angle of approach.

The side finishes with a hole of monster proportions.  At 455 yards and climbing about 50 feet to the highest point of the course for the approach, the ninth is a hole which will require a deft short game for most to earn a par. 


On the whole the bunkers are well placed and attractive.


From here my well struck hybrid came up miles short of the target. 


After two long and accurate blows many will have a third similar to this.  The greens at Prestbury are typical Colt, nothing flashy, but often beguiling. That said, Colt was not adverse to the odd adventurous green as this three tier green demonstrates; it majestically caps this wonderous hole. 


I know little of the science of course routing, but Prestbury strikes me as one of outstanding merit.  The back nine is routed around the front in a sort of horse shoe fashion with the 6th green and #s 7 and 8 being the open ended part of the shoe.  Interestingly, the back nine covers the highest part of the property at the 10th tee and lowest part at #12 green with an ease few architects could match.  While the walk back up to the clubhouse involves some gentle climbing it never requires a long green to tee walk.

The 10th is a deceiving knob to knob hole with a rather narrow green and well protected by sand left and right.  Perhaps the green complex is a little too similar to the 8th, but it isn't a bad hole for that.   Folks may be wondering why the course is so green.  It is my impression that compared to many parts of England, this is an area often inundated by precipitation.  In any case, given the severity of the land, I am not sure keen conditions would be the most suitable.   

The final par 5 is perhaps the the best.  The drive requires a precision strike to the left side of high spot in the fairway.  Anything too long on this line will run down to a wood.  Anything terribly far right of this line makes going for the green in two an arduous task due to a lovely tree guarding the inside of the dogleg.  The 12th is visually odd from the tee.  We must hit over a garden hedge and shape the shot left to right to earn a good angle of approach. Thankfully, the hole improves immeasurably due to the approach.  The golfer's first glimpse of a green is the 15th in the background. I thought this was the intended target until walking further up the fairway.  I stated earlier that this green is the low part of the course and because of this the club recently carried out extensive drainage work. 


While the slight uphill drive for number 13 is less than ideal, we are treated to one of the highlights of Prestbury upon reaching the green.  I was immediately reminded of Harborne's 7th upon seeing this complex of unabashedly manufactured architecture. #7 at Harborne below.


The use of hills at Prestbury reminded me of my younger days playing a Ross gem, Grosse Ile, and the delightful 14th was like going home. The player may have the choice of driving over the knob to the valley floor for a flick wedge approach at the risk of catching a downhill lie to an uphill green.  Alternatively, one can play for the top of the knob and be further back, but have a level lie to a green on more less the same elevation.  It may not be the best hole on the course, but on this day, it was certainly my favourite.  However, my thoughts on this matter are undoubtably influenced by the situation of the tee shot because we stand at a marvelous confluence of holes.  Like Ross often did, Colt demonstrates a remarkable economy of design.  The 13th, 16th, 17th and 1st greens and 14, 17 and 18th tees all nearby. Below is the tee shot with the 16th green and 17th tee to the right and the 18th tee immediately in front of us.


From nearest to furthest is the 17th green, 13th green and 1st green.


The lovely approach to #14.  Notice how the left edge of the green flows up to the medal tee for #15.  Prestbury is packed with little details which help distinguish the course as true Colt gem. 


While the drive for 15 is attractive,  the meat of this hole is in the approach.  The green slides away down the hill beyond and the cross bunker effectively hides the landing zone for the approach unless one can hit a very long drive.


We now turn back for home and play the only bunker free hole on the course.  The 16th isn't a terribly long par 4, but positioning is crucial. Anything down the left leaves a severe side-hill lie.  If one manages to hit the fairway a magnificent opportunity to use the terrain is evident. One can play short and right and let the slope turn the ball to the hole.


...However, should the player misjudge the pace, a scar hollow to the right awaits.  This is without a doubt one of the cleverest of Colt holes I have come across. 


Knowing how skilled Colt was at creating endearing par 3s, perhaps my expectations are too high, but up to now the short holes have been good without being memorable.  The penultimate hole changes this perception because it is a corker.  I suspect the steep bank short of the green serves to make the hole look far longer than its 137 yards.  Additionally, the entire putting surface can't be seen from the tee as it curls right around the bunker. Finally, in wet conditions, I think it is entirely possible to hit a spinning shot to the false front section of the green and watch it spin a considerable distance back down the bank. 


The home hole is slightly disappointing, but that is likely due to the collection of creativity experienced during the previous three or four hours. That said, this hole does take some playing as the two tier green is deceptively deep and well protected by sand. 

Because the terrain at Prestbury is unruly and it therefore seems to me there may be some playability issues if the course were keen it is difficult to give it a 1*.  That said, I would like to go back and see the course when it is drier because my fears may be unfounded. In any case, because there are so many compelling (four All England candidates: 3, 5, 9 & 16) holes I have a lot of time for Prestbury and anybody traveling through the area should strongly consider giving it a go.  One final word, the more Colt courses I play the more I realize the importance of turf quality.  I can find no discernible differences in the design quality of Prestbury compared to Colt's more famous heathland courses.  What is, however, very noticeable, is the difference in turf quality between parkland and heathland golf.    2009
 
Ciao
« Last Edit: November 23, 2015, 12:50:23 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Tom MacWood

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Re: PRESTBURY: Just a Taster
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2009, 09:52:51 PM »
Sean
Wow. Wasn't this course one of Colt's most heavily bunkered? Do you think it is better now or then?

Sean_A

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Re: PRESTBURY: Just a Taster
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2009, 06:49:12 AM »
Sean
Wow. Wasn't this course one of Colt's most heavily bunkered? Do you think it is better now or then?

Tommy Mac

I really don't know the relative bunker numbers for Colt courses.  I suspect Prestbury has in the region of 65 pits and predictably, several could be removed without disrupting the design in the least. 

I don't have any idea of what the course was like 85 years ago though I suspect there were fewer trees which would have added to the illusion of space even though the course is compact. 

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Cristian

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2009, 07:45:55 AM »
Wonderful series of pics as always!

A very nice looking course. The only thing that makes me wonder is the symmetric bunkering of the first fairway. The bunkers look to be at similar distance from the tee, unusual I think for anything I have seen from Colt. Is it possible that one of the bunkers is not original? or is there another explanation?

Other than that it is a course begging to be played! Is the course easy to access and do they welcome visitors at weekends?


Sean_A

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2009, 08:05:55 AM »
Cristian

Yes, the opening two holes have unimaginative fairway bunkering for the tee shot, but I don't know if that is down to Colt or not.

Thank you for the kind words.  I am not terribly familiar with Cheshire clubs, but I suspect that no weekend visitors are allowed.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Paul_Turner

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2009, 03:18:38 PM »
Sean I've added some old photo to Mark's thread, including the 5th and the "White Cliffs of Dover"

Tom

I think you may be thinking of Tandridge...that's where he went nuts with bunker:  about 280 I've heard and on a undulating site too.  Prestbury has definitely had quite a few filled but wasn't nearly as heavily bunkered as Tandridge. 
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

Sean_A

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2009, 05:37:31 PM »
Sean I've added some old photo to Mark's thread, including the 5th and the "White Cliffs of Dover"

Tom

I think you may be thinking of Tandridge...that's where he went nuts with bunker:  about 280 I've heard and on a undulating site too.  Prestbury has definitely had quite a few filled but wasn't nearly as heavily bunkered as Tandridge.  

Paul

What stands out most about the pix you posted are the lack of trees and and houses.  

The hill that #5 and #3 (and the one #9 climbs) looks to have very few trees on it if the pix below are anything to go by.





Looking at #4 the houses on the distance hills haven't been built yet.  Looking at the current green I couldn't help thinking that it may have extended further left at one time, but judging from this pic it looks like the green used to actually curl toward the front bunker which no longer exists - I suspect it may be much reduced and/or pushed back more toward the rear right bunker.  If I am correct this looks to be a fascinating complex and much more interesting than the current set up.


Also, the 7th looks to have a guardian tree to the right and encroaching trees left!


Additionally, the scale of the 5th green seems far larger back in the day though I must admit to preferring the current precision approach required today and the cleaner look of no bunkers below the green.  I have to say, that all of the bunkers shown on #5 look like they would have been a nightmare to maintain because of the severe slopes they rest on with the amount of rain this part of the country reputedly gets.  It is not surprising they have been removed.  

Do you have more pix?

Ciao
« Last Edit: October 17, 2009, 05:50:45 PM by Sean Arble »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Dan Dingman

Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2009, 05:47:31 PM »
Sean,

Nice job. The pictures you took show a very nice piece of land. The back 9 appeared to be more open. Is this the case?

The fifth hole looks similar to the 1st at Orchard Lake CC.

DD

Sean_A

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2009, 06:00:19 PM »
Sean,

Nice job. The pictures you took show a very nice piece of land. The back 9 appeared to be more open. Is this the case?

The fifth hole looks similar to the 1st at Orchard Lake CC.

DD

Dan

You are right, there are similarities (if memory serves me correctly) between OLCC's 1st and the Prestbury's 5th.

The trees only come into play on a few holes and at least on one hole, the par 5 11th, that tree was intentionally left there by Morrison despite some members grumbling back in the day.  In fact, the only hole I didn't like the trees at all was on #15.  That drive felt different from the remainder of the course.  I should also mention that the trees above #3 are atrocious.  To block light from that green is silly especially as the trees don't really add anything.  

I went back to Creating Classics and noticed that Morrison was defending the 10th green site with no bunkers.  Now there are at least three guarding what is already a narrow target.  

Ciao  
« Last Edit: October 18, 2009, 02:59:23 AM by Sean Arble »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Paul_Turner

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2009, 08:33:41 PM »


Dan

I went back to Creating Classics and noticed that Morrison was defending the green site with no bunkers.  Now there are at least three guarding what is already a narrow target. 

Ciao   
[/quote]

Sean
I assume you mean no bunkers above the green (there are bunkers below).

Apart from the first b&w photo I posted, the b&w photos posted above, and in Creating Classics, are from before Morrison joined the firm (the design may have involved some input from Mackenzie).  For the 5th,  Colt put bunkers below the green,  Morrison then added some high above on the bank at some later date.  These were both lost at some point and the current arrangement was established.

I agree those bunkers could have been difficult to maintain; there's an aerial in the club history from the 1970s and they may have still been there, but it's difficult to make out.  But I'd like to have tried that recovery shot from Morrison's bunkers above the hole!  From the modern photos it looks like clearing the trees above the green would be worthwhile.  Recovery shots from the old grass depressions where the traps used to be?

The 1970s aerial is amazingly open compared with today.  But at least the club had the good sense to plant the trees in copses rather than straight lines.

Creating Classics does shed some light on how the firm tended the course through the years.  They note that Colt was advising in 1934,5,6,7.  Then in 1949 in F Hawtrees bio "Colt and Co", Morrison mentions that he has been advising the course every two or three years for some time and this is supported in Creating Classics which has some minuted details...he may have redone the 10th.

I'd forgotten where that photo of the 5th with the Morrison bunkers had come from...but I just realised that it's from 'Colt and Co" and the text below states that he added the upper bunkers in 1926.  I'm assuming it's accurate (but there's lots of mistakes in both books).

Add some more vintage pics soon.
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

Paul_Turner

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2009, 08:37:30 PM »
PS

I think Prestbury must be Colt's hilliest layout.  He had some bold land on other courses but I can't think of anything.  It looks even hillier than Hamilton.  The only possible other contenders I can think of are Madrid and Pedrena (Seve's home course)....our fellow GCAer Alfonso may be able to decide.

Sean

Which do you prefer, Harborne or Prestbury?
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

Sean_A

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2009, 03:11:53 AM »
Paul

I forgot to mention the 10th as the hole Morrison was advocating no bunkers necessary - you may have been thinking I was talking about the 5th.  I can understand the lower bunkers being there just to stop balls running to god knows where, but I think Morrison is definitely right about the high bunker - its not very stylish either. 

I don't think there is anything to choose between Harborne and Prestbury - both are very good courses with imaginative holes scattered throughout.  Prestbury has the advantage of a very hilly property creating some dramatic holes (probably more really good holes than Harborne), but those same hills also make walking some of the holes less than they could be on a flatter property.  Harborne has ideal elevation changes, but it doesn't have as many dramatic holes.  I think Prestbury really is a routing masterpiece and probably the better course, but even so, at the moment, I would plop for Harborne if only because its a better walk.  That said, I would like to see Prestbury when its properly dry.  If the playablity holds up, I think I would plop for it over Harborne.   

I look forward to more pix. 

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

James Boon

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2009, 05:42:48 AM »
Sean,

Thanks for these pictures. Wish I could have joined you.

I like the look of the setting of the 3rd and 5th greens, and the 9th looks a cracker up the hill! Some other really good looking holes also, but the thing which jumped out at me from the photos was the par 3s. I always think of Colt putting together a very good set of 3s on any of his courses I've played, but these look to be okay rather than very good. What did you think?

Cheers,

James
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Philip Gawith

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2009, 07:38:53 AM »
Thansk for the tour Sean. I was up at Wimslow with Mark last weekend and he took time off to show me a few holes at Prestbury - I hope he chips in! You  have made it even more enticing. Apparently it is Wayne Rooney-land - sorry to lower the tone!

Sean_A

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2009, 04:45:42 AM »
Sean,

Thanks for these pictures. Wish I could have joined you.

I like the look of the setting of the 3rd and 5th greens, and the 9th looks a cracker up the hill! Some other really good looking holes also, but the thing which jumped out at me from the photos was the par 3s. I always think of Colt putting together a very good set of 3s on any of his courses I've played, but these look to be okay rather than very good. What did you think?

Cheers,

James

James

As I stated in the review I wasn't bowled over by the par 3s, but all are good without being remarkable with the exception of 17 which is outstanding.  That said, from the ld pix it looks like #4 used to be a better hole.

The 9th certainly has wow factor and offers a compelling choice of shots off the tee, but the land is far too steep (if going uphill anyway) to be anything close to ideal.  Though I imagine back in the day it may have been a par 5.  I spose this is another case of why I like the bogey system better than par. 

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2009, 10:13:10 PM »
Sean, I played Prestbury with Mark a few years ago. I thought it was exceptional.  I posted more thoughts on Mark's thread.  Glad you got to play it.
Tom Williamsen
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

Sean_A

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #16 on: October 22, 2009, 01:17:46 PM »
Paul

I was still hoping that you would post those vintage pix!?!?

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Paul_Turner

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2009, 02:13:26 PM »
Sean

I hadn't forgotten you, here they are.

The 10th.  With fronting bunker and bunker close up.  Interestingly Morrison advises in 1949 to add a top shot bunker, I assume restoring something similar to that one in the foreground.




13th green complex with mounding




14th tee shot.  I suspect you won't be a fan of that trap Sean


16th green looking back from 17

1st bunker

3rd green

the 4th which is the same as in Creating Classics.  Looks larger and perhaps more contoured to me.  Is the "kicker" bank on the left still in play?
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2009, 02:35:35 PM »
Paul

Cheers!  Where to begin?  

#10, yes, Morrison was advocating replacing the cross bunker short of the green,, but not having any green-side bunkers.  I think he was spot on assuming the course was f&f.

This pic of #14 is from a different angle than now.  Was it taken from the 17th green?  If this was from the tee it must have wrapped near the 17th green because this shot is playing toward oob left rather than along it.  I kind of like it.  



Look at the 16th green - its square!!!  I don't see a tee for #17 unless its squished between the bunker and right edge of the 6th green.  


Yes, I said before that #4 looks to be radically different today than in the old pix.  The green looks to be vastly larger and wrapping around more between the right bunkers.  I thought the hole looked odd when I stood on the tee, but I suspected it used to continue on its way past the left bunkers.  That kick in from the rear left has been softened big time.  

Thanks for posting - its always great to see quality pix of old Colt courses.

Ciao


« Last Edit: October 22, 2009, 07:04:07 PM by Sean Arble »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Paul_Turner

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #19 on: October 22, 2009, 03:29:31 PM »
Sean the photos are from Colt's own collection and must be from the time of construction.  The course isn't quite finished in some of the pics. Perhaps they hadn't built the 17th tee yet?

The 16th green still looks pretty "square" from certain viewpoints.  But probably shrunken


From the club's website.
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

Sean_A

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Re: PRESTBURY: Colt in the Hills
« Reply #20 on: October 22, 2009, 07:15:13 PM »
Sean the photos are from Colt's own collection and must be from the time of construction.  The course isn't quite finished in some of the pics. Perhaps they hadn't built the 17th tee yet?

The 16th green still looks pretty "square" from certain viewpoints.  But probably shrunken


From the club's website.

Paul

I see what you are saying about #17 green, but it isn't square and the old one looks very square.  All the corners have been softened.  I suspected that the right hollow was a bunker, but I can't see sand in the old pic, bad angle.  I rather suspect the front left of the green has been extended out beyond the original pad which has eliminated that square look.  No matter what has been done, this is one heck of a hole - I think probably the best on the course.


Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

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